Pena honored as AL comeback player
First baseman recognized by peers with Players Choice Award
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Pena was recognized as the American League's Comeback Player of the Year on Friday when the Rays first baseman was named the winner of the 2007 Players Choice Award.
Washington Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young, who is the brother of Rays right fielder Delmon Young, was named the winner for the National League.
After missing three-fourths of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Pena, 29, came back strong in 2007, finishing the season among the top-10 in five statistical categories: fourth in home runs (46); sixth in RBIs (121); ninth in on-base percentage (.411); second in slugging percentage (.627); and seventh in walks (103).
Originally told that he would not make the Rays' 2007 big league roster, Pena returned home to Orlando before receiving the call that began his comeback. He went on to set Tampa Bay's single-season records in homers, RBIs and walks, and became just the 11th player in American League history to have 100 walks, 45 homers and 120 RBIs in a single season.
"This is the most fun I've had playing baseball," said Pena in an early October interview. "It was a lot of fun going out there every day."
Rays manager Joe Maddon is sold on Pena and can't say enough nice things about him.
"You know what I love?" Maddon said. "How he took every at-bat. He does not waste an at-bat. ... I think Carlos, as this season went on, really became involved with his at-bats. Every at-bat became a new adventure. I think as the season wore on, this last month, his pitch selection got even better."
Pena cited his ability to focus as the overwhelming reason for his success in 2007.
"I'm happy I was able to maintain the focus," Pena said. "... As a player, that's all you look for, is that consistency of mind. If you get that consistency of mind, you eventually find consistency on the field."
Players Choice Awards annually recognize the best player, pitcher, rookie and comeback player in each league. The Player of the Year and Man of the Year awards bestow top honors without regard to league. Balloting of all Major League players for the Players Choice Awards was conducted in September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.
Each 2007 Players Choice Award winner will recommend the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust. Since 1992, the Players Trust has contributed more than $3 million to charities around the world in honor of Players Choice Award winners.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.